Two of my favorite moves of the offseason were the Milwaukee Brewers signing free agent Lorenzo Cain and the St. Louis Cardinals acquiring Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins. Both were instrumental in wins on Tuesday.
The Brewers, a day after Chicago Cubs left-hander Cole Hamels criticized their fans, embarrassed the Cubs 11-1. Cain went 1-for-1 and drew four walks, pushing his season OBP to .404. The Cubs played a terrible game. Their pitchers walked nine batters. They made three errors. The Brewers scored on a passed ball, wild pitch and bases-loaded hit batter, the first time a team has done that since 2006. The Cubs managed just three hits off Wade Miley in six innings. The Cubs' lead in the Nation League Central is suddenly down to three games. The Brewers go for the sweep on Wednesday. Things are suddenly a little sticky in ChiTown.
In Washington, Ozuna hit two home runs in an 11-8 Cardinals win. The game turned in the sixth inning. Tied 4-4, the Washington Nationals brought in Austen Williams for his second major league appearance. The 25-year-old right-hander didn't allow a home run in 68 innings in the minors. Ozuna, Paul DeJong and Patrick Wisdom promptly went yard in the space of four batters. Yadier Molina added a grand slam in the ninth, which turned out to be important as the Nationals scored three runs in the bottom of the inning and brought the tying run to the plate before Jordan Hicks finally came on to get the final out.
Two home runs. One Big Bear. 🐻🐻 pic.twitter.com/xa0ZNoKQqK— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 5, 2018
Cain has played like an MVP candidate, although nobody talks about him as an MVP candidate even though he entered Tuesday leading National League position players in Baseball-Reference WAR and ranking fourth in FanGraphs WAR. I get why he's not getting much vocal support: He has just 110 runs plus RBIs, well below the totals of the other candidates. Here, those totals plus each player's Baseball-Reference WAR before Tuesday's games:
Cain: 110 (5.8 WAR)
Javier Baez: 186 (5.6 WAR)
Matt Carpenter: 166 (5.2 WAR)
Freddie Freeman: 166 (5.2 WAR)
Christian Yelich: 181 (5.1 WAR)
Paul Goldschmidt: 163 (5.1 WAR)
Nolan Arenado: 180 (4.8 WAR)
(And, no, you don't do that thing where you subtract home runs. Each run -- for the most part -- consists of two parts: the run and the RBI. Subtracting home runs only gives the home run hitter half his credit.)
Anyway, runs plus RBIs is hardly the best way to measure offensive value, but that production -- or lack of it -- is why Cain seems to rank behind the other candidates. The low RBI total is partially a result of opportunity, of course, as he's hit leadoff much of the season. He has hit .338 with runners in scoring position and .333 with runners on. But he has also hit nine of his 10 home runs with the bases empty and hasn't had many extra-base hits with runners on. Part of Cain's value also comes from his excellent defensive metrics (plus-14 defensive runs saved), and voters should consider that part of his game.
The point: In an offseason in which most of the free agents flopped, Cain has been the big success story (along with J.D. Martinez). Along with Christian Yelich, the Brewers' two best players were acquired via shrewd transactions by GM David Stearns and the front office, so you can argue that the Brewers had the best offseason of any team. Miley has also been a godsend with a 2.12 ERA in 12 starts, although given that he had 5.61 ERA for the Orioles, that's as much about good fortune as front-office genius.
Ozuna hasn't had the same impact, hitting .272/.316/.414 and he's up to 18 home runs after clocking 37 for the Marlins. His numbers have picked up since the end of July, however, which just may be some luck balancing out. When you dig into the Statcast numbers, his results this year are actually pretty similar to last year's. In fact, his average exit velocity is up from 90.7 mph to 91.4 mph and his average launch angle is 9.9 degrees compared to 10.1. His expected slugging last year was .510 and it's .502 this year. Last year, a few extra balls cleared the fence and this year they fell a little short.
The cardiac Rockies: The Giants led the Colorado Rockies 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh. Dereck Rodriguez was pulled after six strong innings and 93 pitches ... and the Rockies promptly put up five runs and won, 6-2. It was their 40th come-from-behind win of the season, third-most in the majors behind the Cubs' 43 and the Red Sox's 42.
Ryan McMahon hit the game-tying pinch-hit home run and then Charlie Blackmon's infield single got the rest of the rally going. Giants manager Bruce Bochy's intentional walk strategy backfired as he put on Nolan Arenado and Ian Desmond in the frame, bracketing a Carlos Gonzalez bases-loaded triple, and with the last run scoring on a bases-loaded walk. Giving a team free baserunners at Coors Field is never a good idea.
1️⃣ RyMac ties it.— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 5, 2018
2️⃣ CarGo puts us ahead.
3️⃣ Parra provides the insurance. pic.twitter.com/FohlwOm4pO
Because any Shohei Ohtani highlight is a good highlight: Ohtani hit his first home run off a left-hander. ...
Ohtani has averaged a home run every 15.2 at-bats -- the same as Bryce Harper and better than Arenado or Giancarlo Stanton or Manny Machado. It seems like we kind of forgot about Ohtani after he landed on the DL (other than when he returned to pitch the other night), but his two-way success is still an amazing accomplishment, even if he's been only a part-time performer in both regards. It will be fascinating to see how the Angels deploy him next season, given what he has done at the plate and the uncertain health of his elbow.
A Ray of hope: I think I wrote somewhere recently that Robbie Ray would be one of the key performers down the stretch, that he has time to put a disappointing season behind and help the Diamondbacks win the division. In his most recent start, he allowed one run in 5⅓ innings in a 3-1 win over the Dodgers and on Tuesday he threw 6⅓ scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over the Padres as the Diamondbacks snapped a four-game losing skid.
Photo of the night: "Seinfeld" fans will love this:
Now, are there any minor leagues named Costanza?